The mix of hot and cold water temperatures has invited species from different areas in the Pacific ocean to coexist in this marine sanctuary. The Cromwell submarine current generates plenty of nutrients and along with a high population of plankton sustains several species, including colorful corals and large fish.
The Marine Reserve ecosystem contains “more than 2,900 existing species, 25% of which are endemic to the Galapagos Islands. There are also 24 species of marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, and sea lions within the reserve.”
And this abundance of life is truly unparalleled because of the experience of swimming/snorkeling and diving with all of these species with a familiarity that hasn’t been seen elsewhere… Animals roam freely, either unbothered by our presence or eager to play and interact (sea lions can be so playful!).
In 1978, the islands were proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site under four criteria, one being that the Galapagos Marine Reserve is “an underwater wildlife spectacle with abundant life, ranging from corals to sharks to penguins to marine mammals, and no other site in the world can offer the experience of diving with such a diversity of marine life forms that are so familiar with human beings, that they accompany divers.” (UNESCO).
Exploring the Marine Reserve
The Ecuadorian government created the Marine Protected area in 1998 after development and agriculture in the islands began polluting the surrounding water. 40 nautical miles from the coast and the inland waters are included within the reserve and the activities that are allowed in the area are the following:
- Diving (only with an operator authorized by the Galapagos National Park)
- Fishing (designated areas, specific species, with a guide assigned/approved by the Galapagos National Park).
With more than 80 snorkeling sites, 20+ kayaking sites, almost 70 deep diving sites and around 15 fishing sites, the Galapagos marine reserve is the highlight of most Galapagos expeditions!
These activities are important not only because of the activity itself, or solely the spectacle of diving into nature, but because they give you perspective. The awareness of the marine life surrounding the islands creates a sense of responsibility for its conservation, which is crucial since the ecosystems found in Galapagos cannot survive without the protection of the marine, coast guards, visitors, and locals.